Are Marriage Equality Victories Making ‘Life Worse’ For Gay People In Developing Countries?

Screen Shot 2013-07-19 at 4.21.39 PMWhile the notion of expanding LGBT rights leading to potentially negative side effects seems like something pulled exclusively from right wing talking points, a global equal rights campaign group has warned that marriage equality advances in countries like the US, UK, and France have inadvertently led to a 'perverse' worsening of LGBT freedoms in developing countries.

Alistair Stewart, the assistant director of the Kaleidoscope Trust (a UK based charity run by House of Commons Speaker John Bercow) says that working to uphold LGBT rights internationally has grown more difficult as 'our opponents are increasingly moving their resources (and their rhetoric and their hate) to more fertile grounds in developing countries.'

Says Stewart:

The achievement of equal marriage, parenting and adoption rights and full legal protection can actually impede the struggles in other parts of the world where the battles for LGBT people are about the most fundamental of human rights. 76 countries continue to criminalize 'homosexual conduct', punishable with prison sentences and hard labour. In five countries the death penalty still applies.

Because they are losing ground in the West, our opponents are increasingly moving their resources (and their rhetoric and their hate) to more fertile grounds in developing countries. American Evangelical Churches are abandoning the fight against equality at home, in favour of supporting homophobic laws abroad. Why fight a losing battle against social liberalism in America or Europe, where you are increasingly ignored and ridiculed, when in Uganda, Belize or Nigeria you are welcomed with open arms. In this perverse way the successes of the LGBT movement in the North, and in particular in the United States, have acted to worsen conditions in the South.

As the champagne corks are popped in London and Paris, and we notch up yet more victories for LGBT people in the West, countless setbacks, reversals and outrages occur elsewhere. The Ugandan parliament continues to flirt with introducing the death penalty and imprisoning parents for not turning in their own gay children to the authorities. This week in Cameroon a prominent gay activist was tortured and beaten to death.

And in Russia, President Putin signed a law that bans the so-called 'propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,' with Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus and Hungary attempting to implement similar restrictions.

Stewart goes on to say that LGBT persons and allies should remember that "in many places, there is far more at stake than embossed invitations or a gift register."

Indeed, as we celebrate the successes at home, we should never forget that the struggle for equality and basic human rights continues elsewhere.

Complacency, like silence, equals death. 


  1. candideinnc says

    No, we definitely should not forget the martyrs to gay rights in third world countries. We need to be louder and shriller and more effective in countering the reactionary Xtian and Moslem communities about their barbarism. On the other hand, marriage equality is not about, as you blithely put it, “embossed invitations” and “gift registers.” I am 64 years old, and am about to marry my lover of 23 years. And I am doing it to protect his future, to ensure that my Social Security plan covers him, that there are no surprises in estate taxes and the passing of property to him on my death. Security and family are not negligible, and they should not be equated to wedding invitations!

  2. Bill says

    Too bad the laws against supporting “terrorist organizations” can’t be applied to these “Christians”. Or can they?

    I’d sort of wonder what the legal difference is between encouraging the use of roadside bombs and encouraging torturing or killing people for their sexual orientation. What these “Christians” are doing is objectively as bad or worse than the guy who wanted to use a commercial X-ray machine to zap people, powering the machine off of batteries.
    (Actually, I think these Christians are worse – the x-ray guy in my opinion belongs not in jail but in a padded cell.)

  3. danswon says

    “Are Marriage Equality Victories Making ‘Life Worse’ For Gay People In Developing Countries?”
    I’m amazed that question would be asked when the answer is so obviously yes. It should be a statement. Not just Africa, everywhere that’s socially very conservative/unprogressive, eg. Russia.

  4. BZ says

    This started many years prior to the fight over marriage equality and happens within developed countries too. Over the years I have observed my home state of Oklahoma become ever more virulently homophobic, long before SSM was on anybody’s radar. The more progress we make in the blue states, the more the red states are doubling down on their bigotry. We are a long ways from popping the champagne corks everywhere in the US.

  5. Keith says

    This is an odd way to frame the matter. You cannot refrain from working for Human Rights in your own country merely to appease backward people else where. Then we would have no progress any where at all.

  6. beergoggles says

    That is such a stupid headline. It’s not marriage equality that’s making it worse, it’s religion and theocracy that’s making it worse. Seriously, that headline is totally victim blaming. The fact that African LGBTs get murdered by religious nutjobs is all the fault of the LGBT people elsewhere. Congrats, you sound like CNN and Fox News.

  7. Mike W says

    This has happened before with other issues. Well-funded (usually American) anti-abortion groups and religious fundamentalists have been “invading” other parts of the world for decades.

  8. Bill says

    What’s going on is that, once an organization forms and hires people, particularly fund-raisers, that organization will try to keep itself alive. If the original reason for the organization becomes mute (whether they win or lose), the organization will look for some other fish to fry, similar fish if at all possible.

  9. lukebrux says

    Hungary will never being able to implement a legislation against gay propaganda, if they do there would be a strong reaction of the EU.

  10. Betty Treacle says

    Poor unstable countries have an inferiority complex. They are envious of western countries and in order to bolster their egos they try to appear “morally” superior or/and more macho than the western countries. The result is homophobia. LGBT people are easy to pick on because they’re a minority.

    If or when these countries gradually become more prosperous and better educated, the homophobia will die away, as is happening in the West. But it will take a long time.

    Western countries should definitely make aid dependent on these countries dropping their homophobia. We should be encouraging scholarships to our universities, and we should give all of Africa free access to tv channels that show Glee.

  11. gomez says

    totally weird way of framing the issue, seemingly putting guilt on the pro gay equality movt.

  12. Steve Talbert says

    Wrong headline.
    Western religious groups making life worse in Africa.
    After failing to increase bigotry in countries that are increasingly allowing gays to marry, they are moving to countries where poverty and ignorance are so extreme that their money and attention is seen as an improvement,,

  13. Zeta says

    “Stewart goes on to say that LGBT persons and allies should remember that “in many places, there is far more at stake than embossed invitations or a gift register.””

    That statement should be engraved in steel. That is real talk.

  14. Dan says

    I’m not sure why Africa gets to bear the brunt of these discussions. We seem to skip the Middle East, which in my opinion have far worse consequences for LGBT individuals.

  15. john patrick says

    Blaming the civil rights progress in developed countries for the increasing repression in developing countries is misdirected. It is not those of us in our home countries working for our rights who are responsible. It is the religious terrorists who are exporting their hatred to other countries, and the leaders in other countries who are using persecution of LGBT people as a diversion from their other policies, who are responsible.

    This is a world-wide battle for equality. We certainly need to be concerned about the battle elsewhere as well as the battle at home, and we need to keep drawing attention to what is happening in Africa, and the Middle East, and Russia and elsewhere. But that doesn’t mean we should hold back on our efforts at home, in some kind of vain attempt to appease the religious enemies who will continue to fight against us wherever they can.

    There is a parallel and related struggle for women’s rights that is going on as well. Should those involved in that struggle hold off on fighting at home because their enemies might move overseas as well?

  16. candideinnc says

    I really dislike the bigots who try to export their homophobia to third world countries. But, folks, those are adults in places like Cameroon and Iran. They don’t get any passes on their culpability for the barbarism of their treatment of gays. A lot of people keep using old colonialism framing of this issue. Those bigots have minds of their own. They need to use them. American Evangelicals may prosletyze, but if the locals buy their BS, they need to be held responsible.

  17. MichaelJ says

    @Keith: Stewart is not saying that those of us in the west should refrain from advocating for our own marriage and other human rights. He’s saying that we should be aware that in response to their losing battle at home, Western anti-gay evangelicals groups are shifting their efforts to Africa and other parts of the world, making things worse for gay people in those countries.

    The challenge is to find ways of supporting gay people elsewhere who have things a lot worse than we do and fighting against the evangelicals’ hate campaigns elsewhere — easier said than done, of course, like most important things. One thing people can do is support the work of the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). Churches and non-affiliated Christians who profess to being pro-gay should be doing a lot more organizing against anti-gay evangelicals, both at home and abroad, than they are doing.

  18. Ajai says

    While advancing rights in ‘the west’ shouldn’t stop, I think this is proof of what the true opposition to marriage equality is really about. It’s not about ‘preserving the sanctity’ of anything, it really is just bigotry.

  19. says

    He may not be directly saying that we should refrain from making gay civil rights progress in our cushy countries, but that’s the unfortunate take-away implication from this piece, which offers misdirected blame instead of solutions.

    The kernel of truth is that religious bigots are taking their hate show on the road to places where it’s more welcome than it is where we live. Certainly worth calling attention to and worth exposing and highlighting the export tactics of religious zealots. But he goes on to trivialize marriage equality by making it about popping champagne, embossed invitations, and gift registers, as if those are the things–rather than, say, the principle of equality under the law–we’re fighting for. It’s lazy and offensive.

    I’m not sure that condescendingly pointing fingers at while diminishing marriage-equality progress (instead of pointing fingers at the real evil-doers) is the best way to get “Westerners” involved in the international fight for LGBT rights. It tends to backfire.

  20. Jason Young says

    He does realize that Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, and New Zealand are all in the global South right?

  21. says

    there is and has been a common frame of reference for all the religious groupings. Hatred, bullying, fear of minorities are the hall mark of those who hear the voices and have the hallucinations.
    Now the evangelicals, the Shakers, the Screamers, the Snake Cults are finding fertile ground among the least educated; it has always been thus.
    We too even believed in flying witches, in the Middle Ages.
    Now in the west we have seen through the delusions, the moral putrid stench of organized religion with their self serving fantasies.
    The religions have lost their power here, now they must move on to the next vulnerable and uneducated $hitholes; Africa.

  22. says

    actually, the best way to lead is by example.

    it’s ridiculous to think a country can boast of being “pro-LGBT Equality” while still having anti-LGBT discrimination codified into law and policy.

    you remove the discrimination from law, and that sets off the cultural ripples.

    otherwise you’re just saying “don’t discriminate against gay people like that. discriminate against gay people like THIS!”

  23. says

    It is not our advancing rights of equality which cause oppression in other countries; quite the contrary, the oppressed in those countries look to us to shine the glare of contrast on the malevolent regimes of Uganda, Zimbabwe, Camaroon, and all the numerous ignorant pig-sties where viciousness is the order of the day……..even South Africa is turning rabid religious anti-gay.

  24. says

    Advances in gay rights occurring in some nations are NOT responsible for the extreme homophobia in Africa. There is a cause for this dramatic increase in bigotry, the name of that cause is religion.

    When a person in California succeeds in defending himself from an attack by the Jesus industry, that does not cause more bigotry elsewhere. Christians, Muslims and other people suffering from preposterous religious delusions are causing this harm

    Please do not blame me for the evil deeds done by any religion. I don’t have a religion, objective reality is good enough for me.

  25. says

    It’s part of the process, in all revolutions. Meanwhile, more and more LGBT Africans, especially young ones, will feel less and less alone and alienated in the world as more and more developed countries become accepting of LGBT people. Strength in numbers begins with individual courage. LGBT victories in the West threaten dictators (who then take it out on their LGBT subjects), but these victories also inspire other LGBTs and straight allies.